Article – Interview – Arts & Literature

Article, Arts & Literature, Interview

“I geek out all the time in circuses,” says Nell Gifford, her turquoise eyes glittering under a crown of red roses as she pulls a little jar of sand from the pocket of her fluffy coat. “This is from another circus in Paris. That’s the kind of thing I just find in my pockets. I had to bring this back because I wanted to find out what it was but, you know – walking around with a sample from a French circus in your pocket – that’s sort of the epitome of geekiness.”

It is the interval of Gifford’s Circus 2019 show ‘Xanadu’ and Nell and I share a bench in the bustling tea tent, which is alive with excited chatter and sparkly bunting. In the middle of the tent stands a display table decked out with crisp new copies of Nell’s recently published children’s book ‘Nell and the Circus of Dreams’. 

Although it speaks of dreams, the book draws its characters very much from real life. When I ask Nell how much of herself is in the lead character of the book, she responds with a disarmingly straightforward “Pretty much all. The dream of running away to the circus has been my life story. I wanted to tell that story for children.” Even the chicken who leads young Nell to the circus comes directly from Nell’s own childhood: “When we were little we actually had a really sweet pet chicken called Rosebud, who did sleep on our bed and all of that. She’s a real-life character.”

The story also speaks directly to the very real experience of being a child with an ill parent – something Nell experienced with her own mother and is experiencing now as a mother herself, who was very ill at the time of beginning to write this book: “The central character’s mother is ill. I wanted to write about the boredom – how boring it is for a child to have an ill parent.” 

The illustrations for the book are also drawn closely from real life. Nell’s publishers at Oxford University Press brought her together with illustrator Briony May Smith, and together they translated the art and the heart of circus life into vibrant images which tell the story of little Nell’s visit to the world behind the velvet curtain. Nell tells me it was tricky trying to fit all of the circus into one book, and so she has more books planned for the future!

I ask Nell what is the gift that she had received from writing this book: “It made me more aware that the circus is quite a simple story,” she tells me. “I’m always trying to overcomplicate things, but now I’m starting to understand that magnifying a simple idea is better than complicated ideas that are hard to follow.” The idea for Gifford’s Circus this year comes straight from a sixties summer of love. The performers present a love-drenched, technicolour spectacle of song, dance, acrobatics, horsemanship, juggling and clowning – all decked out in long hippy wigs, glitter galore and even doves!

At the end of the show, I am lucky to catch the weekly Q&A session with performers. The line-up features famous faces like Tweedy the clown, returning favourites such as Emmanuel the Italian acrobat and new stars like Lil Smith, who grew up watching Gifford’s Circus. Following the theme of the book, I ask the performers about their earliest memory of feeling inspired to join the circus.

“When I was young I really loved monkeys,” begins Nell, “I wanted to be a monkey trainer in the circus, but it wasn’t really to do with the circus so it’s strange in a way how it’s worked out.” For Lil, her earliest memory was watching her aunt Nell ride an elephant in a circus in Germany: “I was really young and I remember thinking that must be the coolest job ever,” she tells us. Emmanuel shares the story of his childhood as part of a family of acrobats who ran a circus. 

Not everyone who performs in the circus is born to it, and for children who dream of joining Nell has the following piece of advice: “If you want to join the circus the best thing to do is learn dance, gymnastics and languages. Everything else will follow.” Nell explains that, in her experience, people tend to bring to the circus whatever skill they have naturally and then to train and exaggerate that skill until it becomes a performance. 

Nell’s skill growing up was riding horses. She began riding at the age of 6 and has since ridden horses – and elephants! – in several circus rings around the world. In the first half of this year’s show, Nell appears in the ring on a showy grey stallion alongside her daughter Red riding a beautifully dappled rare Eriskay pony. Mother and daughter float around the ring in a dreamlike harmony to the dulcet tones of the house band performing Kirsty MacColl’s ‘Days’. It was in this moment that Gifford’s Circus truly touched my heart and I confess I cried real, salty tears into my popcorn as it did. “I love doing the act with my daughter,” Nell tells me as I gush at her about the beauty of it, “and I hope she loves it too, I think she does. It’s a really special thing.”

Nell and her circus of dreams have now taken to the open road for the summer season. Tickets are available from the Gifford’s box office or through the website and copies of ‘Nell and the Circus of Dreams’ can also be purchased online at

Article first published July 2019, Good on Paper

Podcast shownotes – Environment

Blog, Podcast, Website Content

Created for The Future is Beautiful Podcast

In this episode Amisha sits down with strategist and educator Jem Bendell. Jem published a paper in July 2018 introducing the concept of Deep Adaptation and stating his belief in the inevitability of climate-induced societal collapse within the next 10 years.

Jem first became an environmentalist as a teenager in 1988 and went on to train as a climate scientist before moving into the field of sustainable business. Alarming data on melting ice and permafrost drew Jem back to climate science, where he soon realised that what we see today are many signs of runaway climate change, which has already gone beyond our control.

Through his work on Deep Adaptation, Jem offers three questions for humanity at this time: what do we most value, what must we let go of and what must we restore that has been lost?  Jem speaks about sharing his message with school children and sustainable development professionals alike, the fascinating responses he has received to his work and the resulting existential and spiritual shifts in his own life.

“The big challenge of our time is to make sure that when our hearts break we stay open and connected and curious rather than coming up with stories to justify ourselves being violent to others that we have othered more than those closest to us.” – Jem Bendell

Blog post – (300 words + Bio):

“Getting busy with action can be a distraction from full acceptance of our predicament, where our predicament is that we don’t know. We don’t know what the best things to do are anymore and we don’t know whether what we do with the best intentions will work.” – Jem Bendell

In this episode Amisha shares a moment with strategist and educator Jem Bendell. Jem published a paper in July 2018 introducing the concept of Deep Adaptation and stating his belief in the inevitability of climate-induced societal collapse within the next 10 years.

Jem first became an environmentalist as a teenager in 1988. For him it was a spiritual and existential position: the world was his church and environmentalism would be his worship. He went on to train in climate science during his degree before moving into the field of sustainable business. Alarming data on the melting of ice caps and permafrost drew Jem back to climate science to see for himself whether the worst case predictions from his early studies were indeed coming to pass. He soon realised that what we see today are many signs of runaway climate change that has already gone beyond our control.

Through his work on Deep Adaptation, Jem offers three questions for humanity at this time: what do we most value, what must we let go of and what must we restore that has been lost?  Jem speaks about the experience of sharing his message with school children and sustainable development professionals alike and the fascinating differences in their response. He shares the personal existential and spiritual shifts that have come about in him as a response to this acceptance of inevitable societal collapse.

Jem shares examples of where this collapse has already begun, including an explanation of how the devastation in Syria has its origins in the collapse of agriculture and the ensuing migration to urban areas. He speaks also about our response to what we now face and how we might take radical choices and prepare bold measures to adapt to major societal disruption.

“The big challenge of our time is to make sure that when our hearts break we stay open and connected and curious rather than coming up with stories to justify ourselves being violent to others that we have othered more than those closest to us.” – Jem Bendell

Professor Jem Bendell is the originator of the concept of Deep Adaptation to near term societal collapse due to climate chaos. Five years ago, Jem began offering transformational professional development courses after 20 years pursuing a variety of methods for social change. From anti-globalisation activism and sustainability consulting in the late 1990s, via senior management in large environmental organisations and research roles with the United Nations. Jem’s approach to education is participative, experiential and focused on the whole person. He now dedicates his time to helping people, and himself, evolve in response to the latest climate science.

Facebook & Instagram post:

How can we adapt to the inevitability of climate-induced societal collapse?

In this episode Amisha shares a moment with strategist and educator Jem Bendell, who published a paper in July 2018 introducing the concept of Deep Adaptation and stating his belief in the inevitability of climate-induced societal collapse within the next 10 years.

Jem trained as a climate scientist before moving into the field of sustainable business. Alarming data on the melting of ice caps and permafrost drew Jem back to climate science, where he soon realised that what we see today are many signs of runaway climate change that has already gone beyond our control.

Through his work on Deep Adaptation, Jem offers three questions for humanity at this time: what do we most value, what must we let go of and what must we restore that has been lost?  

Itunes show notes – 500 characters:

Acceptance and evolution in the face of global meltdown.

How can we adapt to the inevitability of climate-induced societal collapse?

In this episode Amisha meets strategist and educator Jem Bendell, author of a 2018 academic paper introducing the concept of Deep Adaptation and stating his belief in the inevitability of climate-induced societal collapse within the next 10 years. Jem offers three questions for humanity at this time: what do we most value, what must we let go of and what must we restore that has been lost?  

Links from this episode and more at

Web Page – Coaching

Health & Wellness, Website Content

Created for:

I coach people who want to live an extraordinary life.

Are you drowning in a sea of self-help books, TED talks and “Turn your Life Around” free webinars? Are you paddling hard but getting nowhere fast?

We live in a world where every imaginable road to self-realisation is simply a screen tap away. So how come we still can’t see the wood for the trees? 

Longing for the life that we dream of, we still fill our time with everything – anything – but what matters to us most. Becoming the best and brightest version of ourselves.

What’s holding you back?

I bet you are looking blankly back at your screen right now, but don’t worry – this is where we start.

If you don’t understand what is holding you back, you will never be able to move forward. To change your life you need to seek out what is stopping you. This is where I come in.

If you are feeling lost, overwhelmed and powerless right now – fear not. The desire to change is enough and I am here to help you with the rest.

Are you ready to be the best you can be? 

Great. I will get you there.

Are you ready to feel calm, confident and crystal clear?

Good. Let’s get started! 


What happens next?

1 – Set your compass for success

You and I are setting out on a quest to track down and bust through the mental blocks, negative self-talk, limiting beliefs and behaviours that stand between you and your shiniest, most confident self.  

Together we will dig out the gold that is buried beneath your burdens, reclaim your confidence and develop new skills to get fully aligned with a winning mindset.  

2 – Get ready to get real

I’m bringing you tough love my friend. I won’t buy your excuses and you can’t hide your true light from me. I will hold you to the promises you make to yourself. I will point out all the elephants in the room and shine a light on hidden obstacles along your path. 

Like any good coach I will challenge you to smash through your personal goals and I will be there cheering you on every step of the way. I will have your back and believe in you even when – for a moment – you may not.

3 – Team up with an experienced  guide

I am uniquely qualified to feel your pain and share in the joy of your successes. You see, I have walked this path myself. I’ve climbed from the dark valley floor to see a new day dawn from the mountain top.

In the decade before becoming a certified Transformational Life Coach, I was hard at work transforming my own life. I know what it takes to get where you want to be and I learned a few shortcuts I can share!

So strap on your adventure boots and let’s journey to the heart of who you truly are and then out the other side to view your life from a brand new perspective.

Are you ready to:

  • -Cut through your own bullshit
  • -Stick a cork in your inner critic
  • -Get in the fast lane of personal growth
  • -Switch your mindset to confidence and success
  • -Bust through the blocks to achieving your goals
  • -Banish your fears, social anxiety and insecurities
  • -Dig out the roots of failure and procrastination
  • -End the excuses and kick your self-doubt to the kerb
  • -Finally quit comparing yourself and just do you

 –  Be more decisive, assertive and ask for what you want

 – Communicate with authority and conviction – and be heard?

Then let’s talk!

Hit me up today for a free consultation via Skype or Whatsapp call.This is for you to get a feel for how I work and see whether the chemistry is right.

I may be awesome at what I do, but I’m not for everyone. I’m going to ask lots of questions, get straight to grips with your situation so I can figure out if I’m the right person to help you move forward.

Of course you get to do the same. I will be happy to answer your questions about how we can work together and get you living your best life!

Website Content – Charity

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Created for:


At Butterfly Children’s Hospices we provide loving care and treatment for children with life-limiting conditions and life-threatening illnesses at our hospice in Changsha. Some children have been abandoned, others are brought to us when families can no longer face the journey alone. But no matter how small or how sick, we give each child the love, care and medical attention they need.

Our mission is to ensure that all children are afforded dignity and love in life and death. Above all, we want to keep families and children together wherever possible, and to support the families and caregivers of fragile children to access and provide the best palliative care available.

Our vision is to become a beacon for children’s palliative care services in China, advocating, inspiring and training excellence in palliative care for very sick babies and children. To achieve this we are working in partnership with government, hospitals, social welfare institutions and professional associations across China, to train and support holistic models of children’s palliative care.

We believe that:

  • Every child’s life is valuable, and should be valued, no matter how short.
  • The voice of the child and their family underpins every action we take.
  • Dignity in death should be afforded to every child
  • Every child should be given the opportunities to achieve their full potential in life
  • Every opportunity should be taken to educate and support families and assist them to make an alternative choice to abandonment of their child


It is estimated that there are 21million children worldwide who are in need of palliative care. 4.5million of those children are in China.

The Butterfly Children’s Hospices were set up in 2006 after many years of independent charity work in China by our founders – Lyn and Alan Gould. They saw first hand just how desperate a situation many children and families were in, and became determined to help. Since then we have held and loved over 200 very sick babies and children. Some are only with us for a day. Others have gone on to have life changing surgery, and over 30 have been adopted by forever families – to love and bless them with a full life.

Today we employ a variety of staff and volunteers in locations around the world as a registered international charity. Since 2010 we have been working in co-operation with the Chinese government to provide loving care and treatment for children with life-limiting conditions and life-threatening illnesses. No matter how small or how sick, we give every baby the love, care and medical attention they need. Our teams of medical staff create highly tailored care plans for each child, no two are the same.

The Butterfly Homes and Butterfly Wing

In 2010 we opened The Butterfly Home in Changsha for up to eighteen abandoned children with life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses – the first dedicated children’s palliative care hospice in China. Even in the face of real heartbreak, we ensure that our Home is a happy place, where children can be children, and are shown love and care everyday. Each child is evaluated and cared for in a way that is unique to them. We look with hope to the future for every child in our home, while making the very best of each and every today.

In 2013, using the model of care developed in Changsha, we founded another hospice in Nanjing, providing specialist nursing care for children who have palliative care needs, including those with complex illnesses and at end of life.  We trained Chinese medical and nursing professionals to become independent in caring for these, and many more, children.  This training was successfully completed in January 2015 and Nanjing Rainbow is now independently run by a Chinese organisation.

The Butterfly Wing is a five-year cooperative project with the orphanage of Changsha. We are training orphanage staff to deliver a high standard of holistic of care to fragile children. The Butterfly Wing is located on the medical floor of the orphanage and consists of six cots, a bedroom, day room, food preparation room and bathrooms. Six out of the eight nannies are provided by Butterfly Children’s Hospices, along with a housekeeper, the nurses and all food and equipment for the children.

A beacon for children’s palliative care in China

Our aim is to create a sustainable model of children’s palliative care services that can extended to different communities. This means partnering with hospitals, orphanages and communities to train and support holistic palliative care provision for children. We work in policy change and education as well as consultancy and developing training models for other hospices.

We are currently partnering with a number of hospitals in Changsha and Shanghai. Working in these hospitals is a learning process for all involved. We are learning about what kind of services we can offer to children and families. When we started the Butterfly Home, our aim was not just to care for abandoned children, but to work on keeping families and children together. In recent months we have taken a big step toward realising that ambition.

Achievements so far…

Since beginning our work in 2006 we have:

  • Cared for 207 children in our Butterfly Homes, Butterfly Wing and in Chinese orphanages
  • Funded and facilitated 29 life-changing surgeries for very sick children and babies
  • Found loving adoptive families for 35 children in our care

In addition we have contributed to learning and development in children’s palliative care by:

  • Organising and hosting four national conferences in China, with a fifth in the planning
  • Translating education and training materials into Chinese

• Funding and producing the first educational video on paediatric palliative care in Chinese

  • Advising the government on health care policy and paediatric palliative care standards
  • Serving on the board of China Care for Life Association, the national body for palliative care in China. 
  • Working closely with the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) to develop online courses and training materials in Mandarin

Looking to the future

Future plans include developing model services in the community for families with life-limited children — such as bereavement support groups — and to support other orphanages to open Butterfly Homes. Alongside loving and caring for the babies and children in our Homes, we are fully committed to our long-term strategic goals of creating sustainable and scalable models of children’s palliative care – with the voice of the child, and family, if present, underpinning all actions taken.

Travel Writing – Health & Wellbeing – Matador Network

Travel Writing

Everything you need to know before your first floatation therapy

FLOATATION THERAPY HAS become the go-to healing experience for everything from jet-lag to jangled nerves — but what’s it all about? Devotees of the practice claim floating in a dark, womb-like tank of warm, salty water will heal body, mind, and spirit from the stresses of modern life. In fact, floating has become so popular since the 1950s — when the first “sensory deprivation tanks” appeared on the scene — that most towns and cities now have their own float center. Once you try it yourself, you’ll understand why it’s arguably the most relaxing wellbeing practice available. If you are wondering what all the fuss is about, here’s everything you need to know before your first floatation therapy.

What happens during the practice?

Inside a floatation tank, our central nervous system gets a break from processing external stimuli, and our body shifts into a state known as parasympathetic response. In this state, healing happens at an accelerated rate, blood pressure and heart rate drops, and our immune system gets a boost. Floating in the dark and quiet allows our brains to drop into the deepest state of relaxation — the Theta brainwave state — which supports profound learning, heightened creativity, and personal growth. Neuropsychologist Justin Feinstein, who is studying the benefits of floating for treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, believes it may offer a shortcut to a meditative state for people who otherwise struggle with meditation.

Preparing for your first float

Before you jump in and drift away, there are a few things you should know.

  • Try to avoid drinking for two hours beforehand, and use the toilet before you hop in the tank. You can get out if you need to but will benefit much more if you remain undisturbed.
  • If you have any exposed cuts or get salty water into your eyes it will sting like crazy. Apply waterproof plasters to any small cuts or scratches, and avoid touching your face once you are in the water.
  • Wear nothing except for a pair of earplugs to keep the salty water out. Floating naked leads to the most relaxing womb-like experience and helps to keep the water clean too. The water and air inside the flotation room will be heated to the temperature of your skin, so you won’t be distracted by contrasting temperatures.
  • Shower thoroughly before and after your float to keep the tank clean and wash the salt from your skin — it can cause dryness and irritation if left.

Setting yourself adrift

Once you step down into the tank and lie back in the water, prevent yourself bobbing about by touching the sides of the tank for 30 seconds or so until you feel stable in the water. Then relax your arms and legs, and you should float steadily in the center without any further effort. You will now be alone in the dark with your thoughts for an hour or more, which might feel daunting for some. Quieting the mind takes time and practice, so don’t be disheartened if you feel distracted or restless. Seasoned floaters recommend that you relax, let go of expectations, focus on your breath and simply allow your mind and body to adjust to the new environment.

Everyone’s experience is different, but most report feeling euphoric, rejuvenated, energized, and clear after a float session, with heightened perceptions of sensory stimulus. Take a few minutes — or longer if you can — to integrate the experience of floating, and prepare for the outside world. Most float centers have a relaxation area where you can enjoy a glass of water or herbal tea and adjust gently to the world beyond the tank. 

Wild floating

For those who prefer to relax out in nature, you can experience the benefits of floatation therapy in any naturally occurring salt lake.

The Dead Sea, situated between Jordan, Pakistan, and Israel, is perhaps the best-known destination for wild floating and one of the most saline bodies of water on Earth — almost 10 times as salty as the Pacific Ocean and completely hostile to life. In the US, the Great Salt Lake in Utah can be accessed for floating from Antelope Island State Park, which lies about 40 miles north of the city and has campgrounds and shower facilities, as well as roaming herds of bison and sheep. 

Moving to Africa, Lake Assal in Djibouti has the highest salinity of any lake outside of Antarctica and is one of the hottest places on earth. The lake has formed inside a volcanic crater lying 150 meters below sea level, which can be found about two hours out of Djibouti City along National Road 1. If you are in South America and make it down to Chile, Las Lagunas Escondidas is a collection of small turquoise saline lagoons situated roughly an hour’s drive from San Pedro de Atacama. Here you can enjoy a cool, relaxing float against a backdrop of ice-capped mountains, with simple shower facilities available to rinse off the salt. 

Assisted floating

If you love the idea of floating but accessing a salt lake or float center doesn’t work for you, you can still get involved and experience the benefits of weightless relaxation in water. Flothetta — a specially designed therapeutic kit originating from Iceland — lets you experience floating in a normal swimming pool while wearing an inflatable helmet and knee pads. 

Alternatively, Watsu water massage — originating from the Harbin Hot Springs of California — combines support in the water by a trained practitioner, with muscle stretching, Shiatsu massage, and dance movements. A Watsu therapist takes clients into a warm hydrotherapy pool where they can completely let go as the body is gently manipulated using the water’s resistance to create flowing movements. The combined pressure of water and massage improves lymph drainage and reduces swelling, as well as providing pain relief and improving mobility.

Floatation therapy brings such a range of benefits for body, mind, and soul through the simple, accessible experience of floating in water — it’s easy to see now why it’s so widely practiced and becoming more popular.

Article first published June 2019:

Travel Writing – Health & Wellness – Matador Network

Article, Travel Writing

6 underrated Nordic wellbeing practices you need to try

IN RECENT YEARS there has been a surge of interest in lifestyle and wellbeing trends from Nordic countries. With their commitment to decent parenting leave and almost spiritual devotion to the afternoon coffee and cake break known as fika, it’s unsurprising that the rest of us look up to our Nordic brothers and sisters when it comes to wellbeing. Most people will have tried, or at least are familiar with, mainstream Nordic wellbeing practices like saunas and Swedish massages — but there’s so much more to discover. Here are six less well-known Nordic wellbeing practices you need to try.

1. Birch beating

The practice of beating and scrubbing your skin with birch leaves during a sauna originates from Finland, but has been adopted across the Nordic region. Birch beating is said to aid circulation, relax the muscles, be good for your skin, and create a lovely smell inside the sauna. 

A great place to experience this practice is at Stockholm’sHellasgården — a wooded sport and leisure park surrounding a lake just 15 minutes from the city. Here you may be lucky enough to stumble across the weekly birch scrub sauna. Local sauna aficionados gather to lather themselves — and each other — with a mixture of birch leaves, salt, and butter before squeezing into a super hot sauna to sweat it out. An officially appointed sauna meister stands in the center of the sauna, pouring birch infused water onto hot rocks and whipping the air around with a towel, a practice known as aufguss or loyly. People then make a dash for the icy cold lake and leap in, before heading back into the sauna for a second — and perhaps third — session.

2. Hot pots

Iceland lends itself beautifully to treatments involving extremes of temperature. The ancient therapies of bathing in different water temperatures to boost health and wellness are known as balneotherapy and have long been practiced in Iceland. With around 800 geysers across the country, Iceland is blessed with an endless supply of volcanically heated water reaching temperatures of over 100 degrees Celsius.

Reykjavik has several thermal pools, known as “hot pots,” where locals and tourists can enjoy bathing to reduce stress, release muscle tension, and improve sleep. Interchanging between hot and cold water is said to boost your blood flow, circulation, and metabolism, and is deeply relaxing. To get the maximum benefit from the practice, take a short swim, shower, and rest after your final cooling off period. 

3. Flothetta

Flothetta is a relative newcomer to the Nordic wellness scene. It involves putting on an inflatable cap and knee pads and floating serenely around a swimming pool. Icelandicproduct designer Unnur Valdis came up with the concept, which allows total relaxation of the body. The benefits for your body include melting muscle tension, lowering blood pressure, and overall stress reduction.

You can purchase the kit and float solo wherever you fancy, or attend a Flothetta gathering and float with others. Several pools across Iceland host regular mass Flothetta sessions — known as samflot, meaning floating together — and some are even accompanied by yoga stretches, healthy snacks, and sound healing for a holistic experience.

4. Sisu

Finland has been named the happiest country in the world for several years, so there’s no doubt that we can learn from the Finnish lifestyle. The Finnish ethos of sisu — meaning courage, grit, or guts — is the latest aspect of Nordic culture to be celebrated. In the book Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage, Finnish author Joanna Nylund defines sisu as a blend of qualities, including courage, resilience, tenacity, and cheerful determination.

Nature can be your accomplice for cultivating sisu; challenging yourself outdoors is a great way to develop your grit. In Finland, winter bathing is a popular accompaniment to a sauna session and involves plunging into a frozen lake. Many Finns start the morning with an icy dip in the lake for an energizing boost that lasts all day — they say there’s nothing better!

5. Summertime hygge

When we think of hygge, the Danish ethos of cozy living, we might think of cashmere cardigans, cups of hot cocoa, and an evening by the fire. Hygge, however, is a year-round philosophy. Summertime hygge is about getting out into nature to enjoy intimate, laid-back time with friends and family.

Wellness blogger Kayleigh Tanner suggests summertime hygge activities, such as barbecuing fish on a campfire, lazy picnics by the river, collecting shells on the beach, or enjoying a glass of wine and a good book in the garden. Hygge simply requires us to slow down and savor the sensory delights of everyday life. 

6. Melankoliad

In the long darkness of Nordic winters, people naturally seek out ways of warming up and cheering up. However, there is more to winter wellness than cinnamon buns and keeping cozy. Sweden’s Happy Friends of Darkness and Cold is an association with an aim to develop positive experiences in those parts of the world that have a prolonged period of darkness and cold. 

The group organizes a series of events named the Melankoliad, which embraces the extremes of winter. It includes bathing in frozen lakes, as well as walking and sitting in quiet reflection in cold temperatures. The organizers state southern tourists often come north during winter to experience the deep peace of the cold and darkness. The Melankoliad reframes the melancholy of long, harsh northern winters as a chance to dig deep inside and find inner strength and peace.

Article published June 2019:

Article – Event Preview

Article, Events

Stroud Shakespeare Festival – Good On Paper – May issue 2019

When Kate Raw starts speaking about Shakespeare her eyes flash and dance with wicked humour and passion. Pithy and pertinent quotes tumble out of her mouth with all the clarity, gaiety and force of a mountain stream in full flow. As our conversation progresses and I learn about Kate’s background as a self-confessed “Shakespeare nerd”, independent researcher at The Globe and Royal Shakespeare Company, creative director of open-air theatre company, designer and musician; I find myself thinking there can be no-one better equipped to bring Shakespeare out from behind dusty pages and into the park in an accessible and exciting way.

This is exactly what Kate and her team have set out to do with this year’s Stroud Shakespeare Festival. The intention behind the festival is to change people’s experience of Shakespeare from something alienating or difficult, to truly accessible and engaging entertainment. Of the 13 productions on the programme, under half will be in the original Shakespearean language. The rest will bring Shakespeare’s magnificent storytelling into the modern voice – and even multiple languages. The companies who make up this year’s programme will seek to retell the timeless tales of The Bard through a spectrum of unexpected – and at times hilarious – performances.

The festival was successfully established last year by Five Valleys Productions – the student production company from SGS College who are now known as Space Productions – under the leadership of Alan Mandel Butler. Kate performed songs from Shakespeare at the festival last year with her musical trio ‘Sounds and Sweet Airs’ and approached Alan to be part of organising the festival in the future, whereupon he encouraged Kate to take over the leadership role for 2019.

This year’s event will be held in the stunning surrounds of the Museum in the Park. As well as the ticketed performances (which will be priced at no more than £10) there will be a cornucopia of free events and Shakespeare-themed creative activities for everyone to enjoy – kids very much included! The event takes place during half term and will offer crafts and theatrical workshops for children, face painting, flower crowns, a children’s trail through the museum and a costume cupboard!

Kate will be directing the Stroud Shakespeare Festival Company in a production of The Tempest, in which the cast will perform as a group of fishermen – complete with sea shanties and Ariel playing accordion. There will be a 1940s rewrite of the famous ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ from StormCloud Arts (think land girls and much laughter), as well as scenes from Twelfth Night by the International Actors’ Ensemble, who will be performing in multiple languages at once!

Thornbury-based Downpour Theatre company bring one of the bard’s lesser known plays – the Comedy of Errors, a farcical comedy with 2 sets of twins and lots of mistaken identity!and of course the Impromptu Shakespeare company will be offering their uniquely off-the-cuff approach to performance, improvising a live production for your entertainment. Last year’s organisers Space Productions will be bringing a production of Macbeth to the festival this year, as well as supporting as volunteers with some of the running of the festival. Finally, do keep an eye out for special guest Queen Elizabeth I – a great supporter of Shakespeare who is rumoured to be making an appearance at the festival this year!

In between workshops, films, and theatre productions you will be treated to performances from local musicians and have the chance to enjoy coffee and a cake from Grouch Coffee and The Canteen and or grab a meal on the go from culinary pop-ups dotted around the venue. Musical highlights include the Shakespeare Heptet – a trio who perform the sonnets in a variety of styles, including folk, blues, punk, jazz, and more!- and Nailsworth’s own Sotelo Singers who will perform operatic numbers from Shakespeare-inspired musicals such as Kiss Me Kate. To top off the local line-up, established local artists such as Dennis Gould and Phillip Kingsbury will have Shakespeare themed work for sale during the festival.

If you are still on the fence about coming to the Stroud Shakespeare Festival and think perhaps that Shakespeare is not your thing, Kate has the following invitation for you:

“At the end of the day, Shakespeare was an entertainer, and his plays were meant to entertain. Sometimes the language feels like a barrier, but one of the best things about him is that he was a genius storyteller. So whether they’re told though the original language, or retold in contemporary English, as quite a few of this year’s productions are, just come and experience the storytelling! Shakespeare was writing for the masses, for everyone. That’s what we want to bring out with the festival – Shakespeare is for everyone.”

Kate tells me that what she is really most excited about is the chance for people to experience Shakespeare in a new and joyous way. In the words of the man himself, Kate invites the people of Stroud to: “Frame your mind to mirth and merriment”- so come along to the festival, experience something new and above all have a jolly good time!

Stroud Shakespeare Festival takes place at The Museum in the Park between May 30th and June 2nd. Applications to perform at the festival are now closed and the full line-up has been confirmed. Tickets for the festival performances are available now through the website and don’t forget there will be plenty of free events throughout the weekend – so just turn up and enjoy!

Article – Brewery Launch


Stroud Brewery Launch – Good On Paper – March issue 2019

If you have ventured along the canal these sunny days you may have stumbled across the new Stroud Brewery bar. The people of Stroud can now stroll or cycle down the tow path and roll on in to the Stroud Brewery to sample premium quality, multi-award winning, organic  beers – brewed using Cotswold grown barley traditionally malted at Warminster Maltings – along with the famously delicious sourdough pizzas. What could be finer?!

Amidst the recent boom in craft brewing, Stroud Brewery have thrived as one of only a handful of 100% Organic UK brewers. Receiving (generous) notice from their previous landlords provided a nudge for the fledgling business to take a leap and expand their operations. After a two year hunt around the area, the ideal location turned out to be under their very noses!

The brewery’s new landlords – who also happen to be such fans of the brewery that they have taken the opportunity to become stakeholders as well! – are Howard Tenens logistics. The company purchased a parcel of land behind their Brimscombe offices, adjacent to the canal, in order to develop a purpose-built facility which is leased to Stroud Brewery as their new centre of operations.

In 2018 the Brewery launched a crowdfunding campaign with Triodos Bank to raise £300,000 to help fund the relocation and expansion plans. Members of the public were offered the opportunity to buy bonds in the business  for a minimum of £1000 and become Stroud Brewery Beer Club members of the for the period of the bond. The bonds sold out in a matter of days, becoming one of the fastest crowdfunding campaigns that Triodos Bank have ever done.

Speaking about the move, Managing Director Greg Pilley tells us: “This is a significant development for Stroud Brewery and will provide us with the platform to take the business to the next stage.  The new brewery will allow us to ensure we retain and enhance our quality reputation and also to develop a range of new beers.”

While their core range of beers – which looks set to expand with the new capacity – is available throughout the year, the brewery are always releasing innovative seasonal brews to intrigue and delight their customers. In fact, the bulk of the big move took place over just three weeks in early December, all in order to get the brewers established in their new surrounds just in time to get a festive brew on for Christmas!

The brand new building houses an expanded brewing capacity, storage facilities, larger offices, the tap room and a number of event spaces. This purpose-built facility will accommodate the brewery’s growing needs as they move closer to their long-term goal of becoming the number one organic brewery in the UK. Greg tells us: “We are recognised for our ethos of sustainability and for producing a nationally recognised range of organic beers. When we first started talking about this project we wanted to ensure this was at the core of the brief, we needed a sustainable brewery with a strong identity, that would be a vibrant community space and a visitor destination.”

The original Stroud Brewery bar developed organically by necessity and function – becoming a well-loved social space for the immediate local community, as well as folks from farther afield. The new taproom maintains the laid back community vibe and rustic decor, with a dose of industrial chic. This industrial look and feel remains as honest as can be, with the steel-framed building housing the brewing operations which even provide waste heat to keep everyone cosy through the winter months.

I ask Greg what excites him most about the new building and the opportunity it presents to Stroud Brewery: “The reason we all brew beer,” he tells me, “is creating something to share with other people. To enjoy the pleasure with other people. Having a venue – a space to bring people together- is very exciting.”

Greg hopes to see the local community, as well as visiting groups from across the region, making good use of the generous canal-side rooms set out over three floors for events such as film nights, musical gigs, workshops, creative groups, parties, weddings and even business meetings! He believes that it will be the people of Stroud and the local area who will help shape this new building to evolve for purpose, and in his view this is the best contribution people can make to support the brewery at the beginning of their new chapter.

So head on down to Stroud Brewery to check out the new taproom and event spaces, and to enjoy the same delicious beers, yummy pizzas and buzzing music nights as ever! “We are really pleased we are going to be able to continue this tradition at the new brewery with our brand new taproom onsite. We hope to capture the unique, laid back atmosphere we have always had but this time with a scenic view and more space” says Greg.



Article – Event Preview

Article, Events

The vibes are high on Nelson Street these days. There is something in the air this month that will bring a whole lotta love to the street, drawing the culturally curious and open-hearted from all over town and even beyond the five valleys.

The Donnelly Sisters, Kirsty and Katy, have made a sparkling splash with their curated art parties in the last 18 months and are devoted advocates of local artists. Last summer their ‘Lust’ exhibition at The Pink Cabbage coincided with the launch of The Diner and saw revellers flitting back and forth, sampling the tantalising delights of both venues and creating a buzzy street party atmosphere.

Inspired by the good vibes of the first event, the sisters decided to go a step further and get the whole street officially involved, curating a full weekend event to celebrate the vibrant community of independent businesses that make up Nelson Street. One Love Nelson Street takes place on the first weekend of June and will offer a cornucopia of love-themed delights while raising funds for The Door charity, who provide vital support for young people in Stroud.

“We feel passionately about independent businesses in Stroud and know how hard everyone works so we wanted to join forces and all support each other to make the weekend a success for everyone” says Kirsty, “We hope that everyone will be feeling the love – whether they buy a romantic novel from Ruth or get love ink’ed at Q’s tattoos.”

Lust 2 will take place once again at The Pink Cabbage, celebrating the work of Stroud artists including Alex Merry, Lorraine Robbins, James Green, Soozy Roberts, Abigail Fallis, Marcus Walters, Tamzin Malleson-Mason and many more.

The sisters have also secured pieces from The Connor Brothers (big love for the sibling teams!) whose work has been sold at Christies and Bonhams and showcased from London to Los Angeles, as well as from Sara Pope who recently became the first female artist in more than 70 years to have a piece accepted into the Vatican collection. The exhibition will be open from 6pm Friday and Saturday for all to enjoy.

Cirencester duo Bethany Irving and Jamie Blackburn will perform at The Pink Cabbage on Friday evening and DJ Neil Wilson will be cranking up the vibes from 9pm. On Saturday evening Sarah Phaedre Watson will take to the decks and get the Stroud glitterati wiggling. Cocktails will be flowing and costumes will be fabulous. Entry will be £3 on the door.

The Marshall Rooms continue the live music love-in on Friday night from 8-11pm, with ethereal indie rock artist Bryde. Saturday sees the venue open early for luscious daytime vibes on the terrace, a lovely social drinks party and further good times still TBA.

The Diner will be showing their love for Nelson Street with a celebration of all things Prince. Glam Slam Lovesexy will see the venue all dressed up in paisley and hearts, with a menu of Prince inspired ice cream sundaes, cocktails and hard shakes such as Raspberry Beret Slushes and Under the Cherry Moon sundaes – all with plenty of cream of course! You can sing along to “Sign of the Times” Prince karaoke and there will be a prize for the best “U Got The Look” prince look-alike.

Thirsting for something hoppier? The Golden Fleece will kickstart summer with their first annual beer festival, showcasing modern and traditional cask ales from across the country, summer seasonal specials from regional brewers, as well as tropically hopped IPAs for craft ale afficionados. They will be celebrating love from 12pm on Saturday with live bands and a pizza pop-up from master baker Dominic of Salt Bakehouse. There’s even a whole extra day of love when we need it most, with an all day barbecue to accompany Sunday beer samplings.

At Qs Tattoos you can literally wear your heart on your sleeve. They will be offering exclusive love-themed tattoo flash starting at £30 each and will be open all day Friday and Saturday for walk-ins. Attendees of the Lust exhibition will also be entitled to 20% off any tattoo over £50 for the two weeks after the exhibition

Ruth and Ron at R&R Books, stalwarts of the Nelson Street retail scene, are delighted to see the friendly community opening its arms to draw more visitors up beyond the High Street. Their eclectic book selection has something for absolutely everyone to enjoy so why not enjoy a browse and savour your purchase over a fresh brewed coffee at Black Books Cafe. The cafe will be open til 8pm on Friday and will be offering 2 for 1 hot drinks from 6pm with specially baked love-themed sweet treats on the side.

Elvers Studio moved into their shop on Nelson Street in April of last year. The father and daughter duo are keen to celebrate Nelson Street and let people know there is plenty going on beyond the end of the high street! They will be opening their doors and their hearts to all comers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday so pay them a visit for a beautiful piece of artwork or jewellery as a token of your love for the Stroud independent arts scene. The Yoga Space will also be keeping their doors open to embrace the good people of Stroud until 8pm on Friday and Saturday, so you can give your body some love and attend to your heart chakra.

All this – and more surprises in store – awaits you on Nelson Street from 1st to 3rd June. Keep watch on social media for further announcements – or take a stroll up the street and see for yourself!

Newsletter – Architectural Stonemason


At Stone Art we specialise in bespoke, luxury stone fireplaces. The fireplaces that we produce at our Cotswolds workshop are hand carved with chisel and mallet by a master craftsman with a decade long traditional training in stonemasonry.

We receive commissions from all over the UK and have worked on projects around Europe too. Our bespoke stone fireplaces have proven popular with high-end interior designers, property developers and architects, seeking to deliver one of a kind luxury pieces for discerning clients.

We are proud to share with you a few of our favourite projects from 2017 and hope they provide a source of inspiration for your own designs!

Twin Louis XV French Limestone Fireplaces

A private customer commissioned us to design, carve and install these stunning stone fireplaces, which were to be fitted in the original home of Lewis Carrol’s “Alice in Wonderland”.

The fireplaces were carved by hand with mallet and chisel from an exceptionally fine-grained French limestone called Lépine, which allows for much more intricate detail to be carved than the local limestone due to its fine, soft and compact structure. Each fireplace took 10 weeks to be hand carved and fitted in person.

We designed these unique fireplaces for the customer based on the 18th Century french style – but with a twist! The customer gave us total free rein to carve something into the fireplaces to connect them with Alice in Wonderland, so we carved a Cheshire Cat and a hand of cards on either side of the lintel.

Elegant Bolection Style Flat Arch Fireplace

This striking stone fireplace was a bespoke Bolection inspired design created, carved and fitted by us for a private customer.

The entire piece was carved by hand with mallet and chisel in our Cotswolds workshop and was fitted by us on site at the customers home.

The lintel is carved from three stones wedged together to form what is called a flat arch, which gives strength.

The rest of the fireplace was designed with typical Bolection style features such as the proportions and the types of moulding used.

At Stone Art we specialise in bespoke, luxury stone fireplaces. The fireplaces that we produce at our Cotswolds workshop are hand carved with chisel and mallet by a master craftsman with a decade long traditional training in stonemasonry.

We receive commissions from all over the UK and have worked on projects around Europe too. Our bespoke stone fireplaces have proven popular with high-end interior designers, property developers and architects, seeking to deliver one of a kind luxury pieces for discerning clients.

Each stone fireplace carved by us is a one of a kind piece and totally unique in the world – tailored to your taste and the dimensions and style of your room. Unlike mass-produced factory fireplaces, we are proud that our work has soul and a story all of its own

If you are seeking a master craftsman to produce a high-spec bespoke design for your project, contact us today to discuss the details and for a no-obligation quote.

“I seek the material I work with directly from natural sites because I love sourcing stones directly from the Earth. It is for me an essential contact with the forces of nature …mountains, old quarries, beaches. I have the feeling I am completely involved the birth of my work – from taking it from its natural place until the finished piece of work with material hundreds of millions years old. I have great respect for them. In a way I free the beauty and energy which where trapped in the bosom of the Earth. For me my works are a piece of the mountain or a valley.” ~ Sebastien David

Although we are based in the Cotswolds, and our luxury stone fireplaces are designed and produced on site from start to finish, we can ship your fireplace to be fitted by your builders anywhere in the UK, or of course come to fit the fireplace ourselves in person. Each hand carved stone fireplace is dry fitted in the workshop before shipping to ensure an absolutely perfect fit.

Please contact Sebastien today to discuss your stone project and for a no-obligation quote